As a candidate for the Ocean City Council who was disqualified at last Thursday’s kankaroo court hearing before the City Council, I wish to get the facts straight for the record.
In this morning’s The Dispatch, you reported Ufholz “never properly established his residency” and “immediately following the hearing, it was discovered that Ufholz claimed his homestead tax credit in Montgomery County.”
The facts are I did establish my residency via driver’s license, voter registration and tax records at the hearing. The facts are we do not have a homestead tax credit in Montgomery County. It is an automatic credit given to all primary residents of the county, in this case, my wife not I.
We all know where The Dispatch’s sentiments lie and where it gets its payroll. But, next time do not publish erroneous false statements lest you next see your intended victim in Circuit Court.
Philip John Ufholz
Some Events Chasing
Visitors From Area
On Friday, Oct. 17, I read my copy of The Dispatch while I ate lunch as I do most every Friday. It helps me plan my meager social life and gives me insights into the happenings of Ocean City. I probably most enjoy reading the “Between the Lines” section since it is the one place in the paper I can be assured will be addressing the more important issues in town.
What caught my eye most this week was the mention of current candidates being asked if they believed that the tourist season is “shrinking” and what they would do to “grow” the shoulder season. Considering what I see (and unfortunately too often hear), I believe the question asked should not be how to get tourists here but rather what is keeping them away.
My thought is that many of the events that have been embraced to fill the shoulder seasons have morphed into serious problems that challenge the resources available to control them and keep tourists and nearby locals with disposable income away. A business model that has relied heavily on high school seniors and motorized “fests” has gone badly awry.
Take a look at the calendar. Though out of any time order, I’ll mention Bike Week first. By all accounts that I read and see, it makes money for the city and is mostly manageable. But it is unbelievably noisy at all hours for days. And it wasn’t that many years back that a motorcycle group was experimenting with making OC its’ “fest” home, and while doing so made things somewhat more difficult for local police. I mostly point this out because Bike Week could deteriorate with just a post on the Internet and an overnight change in attendees.
And then in May there’s the first Cruiser Week. I know what it was years past with nicely restored cars (unfortunately often without adequate mufflers) coming to town to ride and display. It was an event that was attended by Boomers, but even back then I wondered how much was spent in town by those lined up on the sidewalks in camp chairs to watch the cars drive by. But that is all changed; that is not only what Cruiser Week is any longer. What do tourists see now — cars that aren’t restored but put together to be loud and fast, burning rubber in the streets. Tourists see pick-up trucks intentionally belching unburned carbon to blacken the air. They see trashed parking lots. They see the impossibility of driving anywhere on Coastal Highway. And OC is getting a great deal of advertising it does not want on YouTube. This is the exact caption under one (there are many) video featured as Cruising Ocean City, “These are just some unbelievable burnouts during Cruisin Ocean City event on May 18 Ocean City Maryland. The crowd was just insane.” It was quite a scene in front of the Spinnaker. This was one of many similar videos documenting the mayhem. Folks, it has been viewed 421,187 times. Who does this attract and bring to town that week and who does it keep away? And it is all repeated in October.
June bugs; Senior week. Only it isn’t just one week. School systems within driving distance of OC finish over a three-week span from the week after Memorial Day until Northern Virginia finishes deeper into June. More mayhem, and other than groceries and room rates (jamming in as many as possible), what are they really spending as compared to who they are keeping away?
Jeep Fest, Corvette Fest — both seem tame but exemplify the reliance on engines and four wheels to boost the economy.
Back to the calendar and the worst representation of what OC offers — H2O International. This is the one that already is and will continue to be the greatest threat to the city’s quality of life and reputation. There has been a pointing of the finger of responsibility to Whaleyville as the organizational culprit. Maybe deserved, but OC hotels and businesses have literally put out the welcome sign in front of their establishments. Forget the modified Volkswagen aspect at the campgrounds. This has become ground zero for all makes of cars modified to be loud, race, and burn rubber. This year, more high-speed Japanese road bikes have joined the group. Local coverage did not begin to capture how bad things were. Again, take a look at YouTube, OC’s new advertising agent. Here are some of the video titles: “H2O International Weekend 2012 – Mischief Coverage,” “Loud Exhaust Contest,” “H2Oi 45th Street Shenanigans,” “H2Oi the Get Up.” The caption after this one read, “My full recap on H2Oi 2014, it was a amazing time and can’t wait to see what happens next years H2Oi and what it will bring us.” There were many, many more. Mayor, Council, and candidates – are you aware of these? You need to be, not a pretty picture for tourists.
You will need a more comprehensive plan than impounding some cars that don’t meet vehicle requirements. I did a quick view of some H2Oi online videos that I saw in a brief search. There were hundreds of thousands of views total. The import of that number is astounding. I don’t think many of your Wine at the Beach tourists will be back that weekend.
Endless Cruisin’ in October brought more of the same. Yes, there was the traditional organized event and its participants, but the town was again graced with those here to race, burnout and speed. Documented in person; documented on YouTube.
As I rode my bike Sunday morning, Oct. 12, I came across three cars with big engines revving down Coastal Highway just north of Fenwick Island Park. They went up one side then down the other at a fairly normal speed. Then I realized why. They checked for Delaware trooper presence, found none, and then began racing at speeds that had to approach 85 mph up one side and then back south again. When I got home, I was on a review site looking at restaurant reviews for Ocean City. I came across a hotel review of an Oct. 11 stay that described that coffee mugs and plates had been thrown from balconies during the night, damaging that person’s car. And, once again, who now won’t come back.
Tuesday after Endless Cruisin’, I rode my bike down Coastal Highway to the Inlet. The 45th Street parking lot was still trashed with beer cans and bottles. An innocent bystander might have been injured or killed by the Camaro that flipped multiple times on Baltimore Avenue. After reading about that incident, I went online to find out more details, entering “Camaro Ocean City MD.” Multiple revealing reviews of Cruisin’ came up. This is the content of just one of the many. It was on a Camaro enthusiasts group site.
“All very true. It seemed the entire strip was bumper to bumper. I got down to the Inlet Saturday morning , 8:50am only to get turned away. Lot full. I was there since Thursday morning and spent one session in the Inlet Thursday. I just couldn’t move around. I still had a blast, I swear at times it seemed that town was out of control. There was a Trailblazer that went by Hooters, 3 girls in bikinis stuffed out the sunroof, hugging each other. Oh my, what a freak show.”
Who does this bring to Ocean City?
I know that this pattern was not the intent of the powers that be over the years. But a reliance on these types of events coupled with businesses hanging out the welcome sign no matter what has created a problem that I believe is bigger than what is being discussed.
A perception that Ocean City is a place where behavioral boundaries can be pushed has brought and will continue to bring a “tourist” that will undermine the image the city wants. When the events traditionally welcomed increasingly require law enforcement to be “all hands on deck,” there’s a problem. When there is more coverage of the council’s concern over buskers on the Boardwalk than there is for mayhem in the streets and parking lots, there’s a problem.
I feel for the city police being strained with these expanding disruptions. And groups (including more modified auto/motorcycle groups) viewing what’s out there on social media may already be looking for a week of their own to disrupt town. “College Takeover Week” already looms as a potential major disruption in June. And how many who live locally with disposable income to pump into businesses who would normally make the short drive into OC during the shoulder-seasons don’t do so any longer because of the nonsense going on?
Forget “how do we grow the shoulder season.” Start thinking “How do we restore Ocean City.”
City Director Recognized
I would like to recognize the recent efforts of an Ocean City employee, Hal Adkins, who is head of Public Works.
My mother is elderly and the only time we can get her to our condo in OC is during her favorite months of September and October. She hasn’t been able to get near the surf in many years and recently has been wanting to do so.
Knowing that she would need one of the sand wheelchairs that are not available on the beach after Labor Day, I sent an e-mail to Hal to see if he could accommodate us. Hal replied to my message quickly and assured me that he would help us make this happen. He even had one delivered to the Convention Center so that we could pick it up when Public Works was closed.
Hal was eager to assist, was a pleasure dealing with and was adamant about my mother being able to get back on the beach after many years.
Many thanks to Hal Adkins for going above and beyond the call of duty and going the extra mile for mom.